Action affordances and visuo-spatial complexity in motor imagery: an fMRI study

Laura Schulz, Anja Ischebeck, Selina Christin Wriessnegger, David Steyrl, Gernot Müller-Putz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Imagining a complex action requires not only motor-related processing but also visuo-spatial imagery. In the current study, we examined visuo-spatial complexity and action affordances in motor imagery (MI). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the neural activity in MI of reach-to-grasp movements of the right hand in five conditions. Thirty participants were scanned while imagining grasping an everyday object, grasping a geometrical shape, grasping next to an everyday object, grasping next to a geometrical shape, and grasping at nothing (no object involved). We found that MI of grasping next to an object recruited the visuo-spatial cognition network including posterior parietal and premotor regions more strongly than MI of grasping an object. This indicates that grasping next to an object requires additional processing resources rendering MI more complex. MI of a grasping movement involving a familiar everyday object compared to a geometrical shape yielded stronger activation in motor-related regions, including the bilateral supplementary motor area. This activation might be due to inhibitory processes preventing motor execution of motor scripts evoked by everyday objects (action affordances). Our results indicate that visuo-spatial cognition plays a significant role in MI.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
JournalBrain and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology


  • BioTechMed-Graz


Dive into the research topics of 'Action affordances and visuo-spatial complexity in motor imagery: an fMRI study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this